Mad Scientist Moment

I had a mad scientist moment. 

The kind of “Eureka!” moment when something I was thinking about, studying, and analyzing came into clear focus. A moment where complicated things became quite simple. 

Obviously we talk about stress a lot. It’s kind of our thing. 

Stress can seem like a complicated subject. That’s mostly because folks don’t understand what it is. And when you don’t understand what something is, there’s a lot of stigma, fear, aversion, denial, and judgement around it. Also, when you don’t understand what something is, it’s terribly difficult to do something about it. 

My mad scientist moment was about simplifying “stress”. 

Anytime we simplify things, we run the risk of losing the nuance, but sometimes we need to see things black and white, before we can start to see colour. For now, let’s stick with black and white. 

Stress comes from two places: over-control and under-control. 

  1. Over-control. Over-control is when you try to control things that you can’t. It’s when you try to exert your influence and control and power on things that are not under your control. It’s the stuckness, the frustration, the striving, helplessness, hopelessness, despair, worry, anxiety, self-doubt, and impatience with things that you have little to no influence on. The weather, the outcomes to situations, other people’s choices, behaviour, and thoughts are examples of things that you have very little control over. Yet, how much time and energy do you spend/waste on the desire to control these things, on worrying about them, on trying to change or fix them, on wishing they were different?
  2. Under-control. Under-control is when you fail to regulate or influence the things that you have some power over. There are certain things that you absolutely have control over or influence on. Your reactions, your thoughts, behaviours, choices, and comments, your sleep schedule, your activity level, your communication, your effort on a project. You even have influence on your emotions. But how much energy, time, and mindful effort do you really put into these things? And what is the fallout from your poor choices and failure to regulate what you can?

Moving forward:

Be more mindful. Where are you trying to control what you can’t? Where can you regulate what you can? When you find yourself in a tizzy, anxious, worried, frustrated, impatient, blue, sad, self-doubtful, cynical, closed-hearted, etc, ask yourself, “Am I trying to over-control something? Where am I under-controlling?”

Accept. Life is messy. No one said it was supposed to meet your clear-cut, cozy, rosy expectations. Accept life’s uncontrollable mess with an unconditionally open heart. You don’t have to like it. That’s ridiculous. But you do have to accept it. Because it is. Pushing back against it is just an exercise in futility.

Act. Be bold and take courageous action. It takes courage to make a move, take a break or go to bed at a decent time. It takes courage to listen to someone’s point of view. It isn’t easy to choose to adjust your perceptions, attitudes, and opinions. It’s hard to try hard. It’s easier to dwell in negative emotion than to begin the process of transforming it. It’s painful to be vulnerable and take good care of relationships. But what else in life is worth your effort?

Turns out, my mad scientist moment wasn’t such a novel idea after all. Mother Teresa already nailed it.

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

Sit with that one line for a couple minutes a day. Hold onto that prayer throughout the day. Whisper it when you need it. Print it off and put it on your wall. Because that one line sums up the entire solution to stress. 

Here’s to conquering stress.

With heart,

The Stress Experts

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